I have now spent a month in my second visit to this great and flourishing city, and fortunately took lodgings in a Hotel, where I found the lady and sister of Mons. Le Marquis De Valan, whose politeness to us I mentioned in a former letter at Vienne, and by whose favour I have had an opportunity of seeing more, and being better informed, than I could have been without so respectable an acquaintance. At Vienne I only knew his rank, here I became acquainted with his good character, and fortune, which is very considerable in Dauphine, where he has two or three fine seats. His Lady came to Lyons to lye-in, attended by the Marquis’s sister, a Chanoinesse, a most agreeable sensible woman, of a certain age; but the Countess is young and beautiful.
You may imagine that, after what I said of Lyons, on my way to Spain, I did not associate much with my own country-folks. On my return, indeed, my principal amusement was to see as much as I could, in a town where so much is to be seen; and in relating to you what I have seen, I will begin with the Hotel De Ville; if it had not that name, I should have called it a Palace, for there are few palaces so large or so noble; on the first entrance of which, in the vestibule, you see, fixed in the wall, a large plate of Bronze, bearing stronger marks of fire than of age; on which were engraven, seventeen hundred years ago, two harangues made by the Emperor Claudius in the senate, in favour of the Lyonoise, and which are not only legible at this day, but all the letters are sharp and well executed; the plate indeed is broke quite through the middle, but fortunately the fraction runs between the first and second harangues, so as to have done but little injury among the the letters. As I do not know whether you ever saw a copy of it, I inclose it to you, and desire you will send it as an agreeable exercise, to be well translated by my friend at Oxford.
On the other side of the vestibule is a noble stair-case, on which is well painted the destruction of the city, by so dreadful a fire in the time of the Romans, that Seneca, who gives an account of it in a letter to his friend, says,
“Una nox fuit inter urbem maximam et nullum.”
i.e. One night only intervened between a great city and nothing.
There is something awful in this scene, to see on one side of the stair-case the conflagration well executed; on the other, strong marks of the very fire which burnt so many ages ago; for there can be no doubt, but that the Bronze plate then stood in the Roman Hotel de Ville, and was burnt down with it, because it was dug up among the refuse of the old city on the mountain called Fourvire, on the other side of the river, where the original city was built.—In cutting the letters on this large plate of Bronze, they have, to gain room, made no distance between the words, but shewn the division only by a little touch thus < with the graver; and where a word eroded with a C, or G, they have put the touch within the concavity of the letter, otherwise it is admirably well executed.